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The History Of Art

The History Of Art The multifaceted and complex intricacies that are woven throughout the centuries in art are unrealistic to attempt in this format. Therefore, because the focus for the majority of the focus throughout history has been on the humanistic form the concentration will be on that. Art was the first written language and to study the history of art is to study the history of civilizations and humankind. The Paleolithic cave paintings in France, when viewed in the modern western perspective can only be speculated at as to the intent and/or purpose of the original artisans. Perhaps the paintings of animals were the focal point of a religious ceremony or ritual, surveyed before the hunt, to bring success or perhaps part of a celebration or documentation after the successful hunt.

It appears that art from the earliest history into the Renaissance focuses around religious ceremonies of some type. Plato believed art to be a form of communication on a metaphysical level. The modern western view of art appears to support his supposition in this regard. However, his student Aristotle felt that art was a reflection and invocation derived from the scientific forms of nature. Clearly, his ideology does not fit into the Ancient World’s artistic representations. As art evolves throughout history it intersects with Aristotle’s philosophy although not for many centuries will we begin to see his naturalistic/scientific theory evolve.

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Human beings are born, live, and held prisoners of their bodies. Since the beginning of time, the human form has been represented in pictorial depictions. Representation of animals and nature appear to only be depicted in ways to enhance the human race; either through religious, mystical, hunting charms, or whatever the themes all center around humans. The form does take on specific significance when viewed in the context of history and culture. The Venus of Willendorf is the earliest officially dated sculpture know to the modern western world yet she is far different from the Aegeans’ Cycladic figures known as the Minoan age.

Yet both figurines the full-figured Willendorf and the slender Cycladic figure are interpreted by modern scholars to represent their cultures mythological belief in aiding the deities if their time period in reproduction. Without the scientific knowledge of later generations, it is assumed that these figures were representations to invoke fertility. Mesopotamia art was centered in what are now Iran and Iraq. The developing cultures (Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians, etc) in the area, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which is sometimes called the Cradle of Civilization or the Fertile Crescent, are credited with the invention of cuneiform writing which is shown to us in the Stele (law code) of Hamarabi. Within these cultures, rulers often conferred with the religious leaders and religion was an important part of their society. The unique character of Sumerian art is exemplified by a group of votive statues from the Abu Temple, at Tell Asmar.

The identities of these statues are unclear. However, it is an educated theory that they served Abu, God of vegetation, and they represent priests, and worshipers. There is no indication that these figures were intended to represent a naturalistic scheme. It is important to note that the symbolization is that of the human form and representative of some form of authoritarian hierarchy. Tracking the human form and its relationship to art, history, and culture as the human figure evolves through the centuries as artists perfect their talents is an effective way to establish how art has evolved throughout all culture and eras.

The architecture form the ancient world throughout history also reflects the cultures religious beliefs and in most civilizations was designed with humankind in mind. The erection of the citadels during the Mesopotamia historical era is built to provide protection of the temples and palaces. They are decorated in relief and personify power, religious themes, and the cultural beliefs about the human form and its relationship to the universe. The Human-Headed winged lion from Nimrud is the perfect example. The tremendous stone slabs are carved into enormous human-headed winged beasts, a bull, and a lion. The lion wears a horned cap indicating divine status, while the animal’s body is endowed with a device unique to the Mesopotamia art style.

It has five legs, so that from the front it appears motionless. However, from the side view it implies the figure is walking. The impression of intimidation and formability radiates from the citadel. Egyptian art radiates the directive of continuity, a seamless stretch of time that reaches back to infinity, yet forward into history all at once. The Sphinx serves much the same purpose for the Egyptians as the citadel depictions did for the Mesopotamian era.

It symbolizes stability, intimidation, protection, order, and endurance. It was built about 2530 B.C.E. The Sphinx faces the sun and is massive in height. It has the body of a reclining lion and the head of a man, most likely the Pharaoh Chefren. In the Egyptian culture, the Pharaoh was God and the body and soul were one so it was essential to preserve the body.

A Pharaoh might spend all of his lifetime constructing a temple, or pyramid, so that his remains, along with those of his family, would remain intact for throughout time. Hieroglyphics were the written language. Although an exaggeration Plato stated that Egyptian art had remained the same for ten thousand years. There are many consistencies throughout Egyptian art that have remained stable and virtually unchanged. Aristotle’s scientific and math theories are represented in much of the Egyptian art and architecture. The pyramids and sculptures used scientific knowledge and mathematical skill, portraying logical balance and symmetry.

The Seated Scribe is a typical representation of the Egyptian sculpture. The sculpture is indicative of reverence to the perfection of the human form showing intelligence and reverence at once. Egyptian painting reveals the same clear visual motifs and illustrative skills that the architecture and sculptures do. Their love of exact detail, meticulous depiction, and biological precision are constants throughout their history. The use of the hierarchical scale to enhance important figures and representing men in a dark red complexion and women in a lighter yellowish coloration attests to their dedication to true representation. The artistic culture of the Aegean parallels in time those of Egypt and the Mesopotamia eras about 3000 B.C.E.

The Cycladic, Minoan, and the Mycenaean cultures are the three most prominent in the Grecian area. Historians know little about the Cycladic civilization except the nude female figure mentioned earlier believed to have been a fertility symbol of some type and the Harp Player. The Harp Player is carved in marble and so life like that the viewer is left with the impression that he is actually playing his instrument. The artist lengthened the harpist arms so that they curve into the harp itself. The arms are subtly muscular. The piece is as highly stylized and the essence of shape is clear as with the Cycladic female figurines. The Minoan culture living in Crete were skilled painters.

Numerous frescos have survived. The cheerful, happy go lucky, and humorousness of society is represented in them. The Toreador Fresco features a bull thought to be a special animal to them. The human figures in the fresco are animated and performing various feats and activities that lend the impression of game and fun. The composition is well-balanced and beautifully graceful curves. The Snake Goddess is thought to be a priestess or queen of the Minoans. The little terra cotta sculpture has wiggling snakes in her hands leading some historians to speculate on the possibility of some form of religious statue, because of the belief that the Minoans’ worshiped a female deity.

Like the Mycenaeans’ they built temples and palaces. However the Mycenaeans flourished in about 1600 to 1100 B.C.E. and are noted for their elaborate tombs. The Mycenaeans’ were master goldsmiths and used gold for jewelry, masks, utensils, weapons, and decoration for architectural structures. The Rhton drinking cup is beautifully constructed in the shape of a lion’s head contrasting smooth planar sections and extremely detailed nose and mane. The Indian subcontinent called the Indus Valley burgeoned around 2700 – 1500 B.C.E. Relatively few artworks have been unearthed from this civilization so little is known of them.

The torso from Harappa is made of stone and is only about four inches high but it gives an insight into the civilization that so little is known about. The well formed muscular composition and naturalistic form brings the piece alive. The protruding belly has been thought to represent the yogi philosophy showing “breath is life.” The high glossy polished exterior resembles the texture of warm skin. In contrast to the Indus Valley China developed earlier than 2000 B.C.E. the exact date is unknown by historians.

China’s Shang and Zhou artists are best known for their sophistication and skill with bronze casting for sculptures and ritual vessels. The Tiger from the ninth century B.C.E., the relief is a series of ornate geometric designs. The sculpture is perfectly balanced, highly stylized, and intricately formed. Meso-America was another early culture from which some of the oldest art originates. The Olmec civilization had its beginnings about 1500 B.C.E. The Olmec were farmers, widely dispersed through the region but their society had absolute religious and political concentrations, prominently San Lorenzo and La Venta. The two sites harbored a dozen huge heads carved from basalt.

The enormous heads are eight feet tall and weigh approximately ten tons apiece. The heads have broad flat noses, heavy lips, hooded eyes and they all have different head coverings that look like some kind of a headdress with distinct designs on each of them. The Olmec also worked in ceramics. Several examples of the figure called “baby” have been found made out of the ceramics. The baby figures are almost life-size. They are chubby infants sucking on their fingers.

There is no explanation for what they were intended to represent although several theories abound the real intent remains a mystery. The discovery of Greek/Roman artifacts in the late 1800’s became an inspiration for art and architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries. Therefore, the Greek/Roman cultures are extremely important in their relationship to our world today. We continue to see the unfolding of what they accomplished and wallow in their knowledge of architecture, sculpture, drama, and sports. Their similarities in architecture, art, religion are virtually interchangeable in many aspects as the Romans copied much of the Greeks’ culture.

Some historians believe inferiority. The Roman culture appears to be a continuation of Greek society. Their religion included multiple gods with Zeus as their leader. Pottery from this historic era depicts stories of the culture, which created it with figures either painted in red on a black background named Red Figure Ware, or Black figures painted on a red background. The Greek’s interest in the human figure and the need to perfect it pervades all of their artistic work. The Kouros are a series of sculptures that resemble humans but are actually suposed to represent youthful boyish Gods.

Beauty and the ideal perfect body for them were the equivalent of the divine soul. The Kouros figures continue to develop and look more life like through the years. The hips flesh out, legs and arms are given animation, the muscle begin to be more fine tuned and less crude. The Contrapasso figure suggests movement and the false smile of previous art works are replaced with natural and relaxed expressions. By the last known period referenced as the Hellenistic period the Greeks were well on their way to perfecting their artistic compositions in architecture, painting, and sculpture.

Roman’s obvious delight in the Greeks artistic talent is reflected in the complete duplication of many of their masterpieces and replicating the architectural structures. The Greek’s used a great deal of bronze for there art work however the Roman copies are mostly in marbles. The Romans encountered the problem of supporting their copies once sculpted that the Greeks using bronze did not encounter. The Romans came to excel at the life like portrait busts. Fides and Concordia are carved so perfectly the spectator can actually identify with the bust as though it was living breathing humans. The relief in the architecture is exquisitely and majestically done in the Column of Trojan.

The column is made up of two thousand five hundred human figures and other animals and pictorial senses creating a wondrous continuous narrative piec …


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